Those not interested in whisky will still be spoilt for choice in terms of wildlife, from the archipelago of the Treshnish Isles to lonely and remote St Kilda. In May, both destinations will have teeming colonies of nesting seabirds such as puffins, kittiwakes and gannets. Whether from the ship’s decks, explorer boat cruising, or on foot, we may also get to see otters, seals, sea eagles, and golden eagles. We may even hear a corncrake amongst the spring orchids in the fields of the Small Isles.
Other highlights include a private hosted visit to one of Scotland’s most ancient and scenic castles. As guests of clan chieftain Sir Lachlan MacLean, we will enjoy a private evening visit at his clan home that has a history running back 800 years. We will see where Christianity arrived in Scotland from Ireland, and how Harris Tweed is created in the Outer Hebrides.
- Day 1 Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland
- Day 2 Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Day 3 Peel, Isle of Man
- Day 4 Islay, Scotland
- Day 5 Oban and Craignure, Isle of Mull, Scotland
- Day 6 Isle of Iona & Treshnish Isles, Scotland
- Day 7 Loch Scavaig and Isle of Canna, Scotland
- Day 8 St. Kilda, Hirta Island, Scotland
- Day 9 Stornoway, Lewis & Harris, Scotland
- Day 10 Kirkwall, Orkney Yes / No
- Day 11 Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, Scotland
- Day 12 Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland
- Day 13 Bergen, Norway
Our voyage starts in Glasgow (Greenock). Meaning ‘Dear Green Place’ in Gaelic, Glasgow boasts over 90 parks and gardens. Famous for its Victorian as well as art nouveau architecture, it is home to such institutions as the Scottish Ballet, Opera and National Theatre. This is definitely a city you’ll want to explore more before you board MS Spitsbergen.
A city of industry and elegance, Belfast is the birthplace of the Titanic, as well as being the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. It is a gateway to a glorious countryside of pretty villages and a beautiful rugged coast with pristine beaches and breathtaking clifftop walks. Experience Giants Causeway, hike through spectacular scenery or explore what this impressive city has to offer.
A seaside town, the pretty port of Peel was the 14th century capital of the island and seat to the King of Mann. Winding lanes of merchants’ houses, bear witness to the 19th century fishing schooners built here which traded from Ireland to Shetland. Peel Castle, connected by causeway and reputedly built by Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway, dates from the 11th century. Museums in town display vintage bikes and cars; a connection to the more modern high-speed racing that occurs on the island.
Once the seat of the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, this is ‘whisky island’, world renowned for its peaty single-malt whiskies and many distilleries. As a stop-off for wintering geese and migrating birds, there is good bird spotting. In the charming little town of Bowmore, there are a handful of small shops, an interesting round church, plus superb cliff-top walks and a well-known golf course.
Known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, the little town of Oban reached its heyday when the railway arrived, adding to its life as a busy fishing port. Now a popular holiday spot, the Victorian buildings cluster round the port, ferries come and go, heading out to the distant Hebrides. Many cafés have seafood-focused menus, and the distillery provides tours to sample a local dram of whisky.
This evening we visit the Isle of Mull where we are fortunate to have a private guided visit to the dramatic 800-year-old Duart Castle, one of very few castles remaining in the ownership of the family. We will be hosted by Sir Lachlan MacLean, the Clan Chief himself. The Castle houses much MacLean memorabilia and our visit will include the kitchen, Sea Room and Edwardian bedrooms as well as a private reception in the Banqueting Hall. The Castle is very much the type of building you would expect a Highland Chief to live in; it is simply furnished, austere and has an air of no-nonsense solidity and age.
World famous for its religious connections, Iona was settled in 563AD by the Irish missionary, St Colomba. The much-restored Abbey remains a place of pilgrimage and peace. Wide views from the beach, known as ‘The Bay at the Back of the Ocean’ stretch west towards the Outer Hebrides.
We will explore the Treshnish Isles, a group of distinctive volcanic islands which are home to a wealth of wildlife, from nesting puffins to colonies of kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and Atlantic grey seals.
Fingal’s Cave, immortalised by Mendelssohn’s glorious ‘Hebrides Overture’, is on the cave-riddled island of Staffa. The basalt columns here are a northern extension of the Giant’s Causeway. Discovered by the Vikings and also in 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks, viewed by Queen Victoria, Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Johnson, this is one of Scotland’s most famous islands. It is best viewed from the sea where the colour of the waters within the cave and its rising columns are at their most impressive.
Surrounded by the high peaks of the Skye Cullins, Loch Scavaig leads to one of the most romantic and dramatic lochs in Scotland – freshwater Loch Coruisk. Painted by Turner and a popular destination for the Victorians, this is a powerful landscape promising great hiking and kayaking.
We head to the Isle of Canna, which is the most sheltered of the Small Isles, known as ‘the Garden of the Hebrides’. Linked by causeway to the island Sanday with its puffin colonies, Canna is green and grassy and has delightful flora and butterflies. Once privately owned by Sir John Lorne Campbell, the island is now the property of The National Trust for Scotland.
Any visit to this distant and wild archipelago, with its breathtaking sea cliffs, is totally weather-dependent. As a UNESCO double World Heritage Site and the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the National Trust for Scotland, it is an unforgettable experience. The outlying stacs and islands, which are the remains of a volcanic crater, provide ledges for thousands of nesting seabirds. Minke whales are frequently seen around the swirling waters of the archipelago.
Once home to Britain’s most remote island community, it was evacuated in 1930 at their own request after 5,000 years of continuous habitation. The tiny museum that remains is a record of how hard life was on this exposed island.
Originally a Viking settlement, Stornoway is the main town of the Western Isles and the capital of the Isle of Lewis, which is the largest and most northerly of the Outer Hebrides. A bustling harbour and waterfront with museums and art galleries are overlooked by the handsome Lews Castle which we invite you to explore with us. Further afield are mills and cottages where hard-wearing Harris Tweed is woven. There are tiny folk museums, the world-famous Callanish Standing Stones, and the mysterious Carloway Broch - the best-preserved fort in Scotland dating back more than 2,000 years.
Kirkwall is the largest town and the capital of the Orkney archipelago. The first mention of a settlement here is in a saga from 1046, and the name Kirkwall derives from the Norse `Kirkjuvagr´ (Church Bay). Today, Kirkwall has a population of 8,500, and is one of the most attractive and well-preserved small towns in Scotland. The community is dominated by the famous St. Magnus Cathedral. A local saga tells the story of how Magnus, kidnaped from the islands, refused to fight with the Vikings or condone their violence. Magnus eventually returned home, only to be put to death for his pacifism, and the church was named in his memory.
Lonely Fair Isle with its high red-sandstone cliffs and gentle rolling fields is a vital stop for migrating birds and has had a permanent Bird Observatory since 1948. Synonymous with unique geometric knitwear possibly of Spanish or Scandinavian origin, the island also boasts a mini ‘Lighthouse Keepers’ golf course and a friendly, self-sufficient population.
Lerwick is the main port of the Shetland Islands and by far the northernmost town of Scotland. Founded in the 17th century as a fishing port, today Lerwick is a bustling, cosmopolitan town. The old waterfront is still active with visiting yachts and working fishing boats. The area boasts some of Shetland's most attractive scenery and an extraordinary concentration of archaeological sites, including two remarkable Iron Age villages.
We bid farewell after a voyage of discovery. Before heading home, wisit the fish market and stroll through Bergen´s historic harbour area, fronted by wooden houses dating back as far as the 1300s. You can also take a trip up to nearby Mount Fløyen via funicular tram for views over the city and surrounding mountains.
Included in your voyage
- Expedition cruise in a cabin of your choice
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
- Complimentary tea and coffee
- Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with very limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
- Complimentary reusable water bottle to use at water refill stations on board
- English-speaking Expedition Team who organise and accompany activities on board and ashore
- Range of included excursions
- Experts on the Expedition Team deliver in-depth lectures on a variety of topics
- Use of the ship’s Science Center which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
- Citizen Science programme allows guests to assist with live scientific research
- Professional onboard photographer gives top tips and tricks for the best landscape and wildlife photos
- Use of the ship’s hot tubs, panoramic sauna and indoor gym
- Informal gatherings with the crew such as daily recaps and preparation for the day to come
- Escorted landings with small expedition boats
- Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment for activities
- Complimentary wind and water-resistant expedition jacket
- Expedition Photographers help with your camera settings before landings
Not included in your voyage
- International flights
- Travel insurance
- Luggage handling
- Optional shore excursions with our local partners
- Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team
- All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
- Excursions and activities are subject to change
- Please ensure you meet all visa entry requirements
- No gratuities expected
|Year of refurbishment||2016|
|Shipyard||Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)|
MS Spitsbergen will take you on a voyage beyond the ordinary. She cruises along the Norwegian coast from September to May, and becomes part of our global Expedition sailings during the rest of the year.
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